Last year, not many expected San Antonio Clark to push the reigning Class 6A champion DeSoto Eagles to the brink in the state semifinals.
But this year, Rihana Houy’s Cougars were nearly the top team wire-to-wire in TABC’s 6A rankings, led by their star dominant junior post Arianna Roberson. Clark was on the other side of outside expectations this time around, knocking off a younger edition of the two-time state champion Eagles, 42-37, to claim the program’s first-ever championship, after topping Jules LaMendola's Coppell in an instant classic the night before.
“They stayed focused, they didn’t get rattled, they worked together, they fought and most importantly, they brought a championship to San Antonio and I’m really happy about that,” Houy said.
Roberson burst onto the scene a year ago alongside her sister, Aaliyah, now at TCU, but Saturday night was her night. The rising 2024 prospect finished with a game-high 22 points, 15 rebounds, four blocks and three steals capping off an MVP performance, even knocking down a three-point attempt. The wiry forward made life miserable for the young Eagles shot just 26.4 percent from the floor with just 16 points in the paint.
“We kept going down the road, we had one set goal and were able to achieve that goal and played our game and not get rattled,” Roberson said. “We did what we needed to do. She told us to go get that chip and we did.”
“She plays with heart,” Houy said of Roberson. “These past couple of games, what she does for us, not only as far as points and rebounds, but she also just does the intangibles for us too. I didn’t until after the game that she played 32 minutes and you wouldn’t have been able to tell.”
DeSoto’s strategy on offense was to get their talented ballhandlers to drive the lane and draw Roberson’s contest before kicking out, a strategy that worked a few times early on, but more often than not, they tested the elite shot blocker to little success.
“We did not shoot well and at the 6A level you have got to be able to score more than 37 points,” DeSoto head coach Andrea Robinson said. “You’ve got to be able to knock down shots. We had good looks and we just did not score the ball.”
Defensively they had no answer when Roberson decided to take control offensively.
Junior guard Natalie Huff, the hero who knocked down a buzzer-beater to beat Coppell in the semifinal, had to leave the game with an ankle injury. She finished with the second-most points for Clark with five with Kaitlin Whitlock and Kamryn Griffin combining for four.
DeSoto floored three freshmen after graduating a stellar senior-heavy team a year ago in Rieyan DeSouze, Amari Byles and Amayah Garcia. The Eagles should return every player on their state finalist roster.